WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Fire District's Prudential Committee on Wednesday agreed to ask voters to approve a fiscal year 2022 budget that would add an estimated 6 cents per $1,000 to the town's tax rate.
The increase is driven by expenses related to the district's plan to build a new fire station on Main Street (Route 2)
The bottom line for the district would go up by just less than $60,000 if approved at the annual fire district meeting on May 25. That represents an increase of 10.6 percent over the current year's spending plan of $565,865.
Wednesday marked the second time the committee has reviewed the budget proposal, which it will see one more time on May 5 before finalizing the warrant for the annual meeting.
At this meeting, the five-member panel decided to use $25,000 from free cash toward an expected $105,000 FY22 expense for the owner's project manager it hired for the building project. That means residents who attend the annual meeting will be asked to pass an $80,000 warrant article toward that expense.
District Treasurer Corydon Thurston presented the Prudential Committee with two alternatives for the FY22 budget; one would have raised and appropriated the full $105,000 from taxation and led to a 15 percent increase in the bottom line budget, from $565,865 to $650.849.
The committee opted instead to draw down on the district's free cash account, making for an increase to $625,849 in taxation, and they instructed Thurston to present that plan for final approval on May 5.
The other fiscal question on the table for the committee on Wednesday regarded a proposed $60,000 outlay from the district's stabilization fund. The original plan had raised the possibility of using the fund to pay for a new chief's vehicle in FY22.
"Craig [Pedercini] let me know earlier today that he thinks we can get another year out of [the existing vehicle]," Prudential Committee Chair Richard Reynolds told his colleagues. "He said, let's do a full capital plan and look at when we'll replace the chief's car and other equipment. He wants to have more of a multiyear vision.
"We do need a chief's car. My concern is we'll see things start to hit in clusters, and we want to avoid that. We'll have to see what comes out of the capital plan."
The proposed FY22 budget includes a $60,000 contribution to the stabilization fund, an increase of $10,000 over the allocation voters approved at the 2021 annual district meeting.
Also at last year's annual meeting, voters OK'd a $380,000 expenditure from that stabilization fund for a new tanker truck, and on Wednesday, the Prudential Committee learned the district soon may be taking delivery on the new apparatus.
"We're probably three weeks out," Assistant Chief Michael Noyes said.
That would allow for attendees at the annual district meeting to see the newest addition to the firefighters' fleet. But a bigger celebration of the 2,600-gallon tanker tentatively is planned for three days prior to the district meeting.
On Saturday, May 22, the Fire District plans to hold a "Share Your Water" celebration at the Spruces Park.
"We would like to have eight to 10 of our mutual aid departments come to Williamstown and help us baptize the tanker," Noyes said. "Other communities do these types of events when they get a new truck and call it a wet down or a hose down."
The plan is to have the visiting firefighters bring their own tankers and dump a couple hundred gallons of water into a tank that then will be used to fill the new WFD tanker, symbolizing the cooperative spirit among local first responders.
"It's a way to say thanks for all the years they've responded to our community with their tankers, and now we're able to respond to their community with our tanker," Noyes said.
The Prudential Committee agreed to contribute up to $2,000 toward refreshments and engraved, commemorative glassware to give to firefighters who show up to help Williamstown "christen" its tanker.
"I think it's time we did something for the folks who covered us all these years," Ed Briggs said.
In other business on Wednesday, the Prudential Committee discussed the district's continuing effort to find grant funding.
That work recently paid off to the tune of a $12,405 fire safety equipment grant from the commonwealth, Pedercini reported. The district will use the funds to pay for two gas meters and a battery-operated ram for extrications from vehicles.
The district also has applied for $26,000 from the state for a terrorism/active shooter grant, Noyes said.
"North Adams Fire Department is very well equipped for this type of situation," he said. "The more resources that are out there, the better off the community is. We're going to get called, there's no doubt about it. It's about educating ourselves and protecting ourselves, which is our main concern — firefighter safety."
Meanwhile, Town Manager Jason Hoch is helping the district recoup expenses for technology expenses under the federal CARES Act, part of which is dedicated to helping municipalities deal with technology costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the committee approved $28,146 in CARES-eligible expenditures; the largest portion, $13,000 is slated for the acquisition of 10 laptop computers.
Town Hall also is helping the district — a separate municipal entity apart from town government — look into a state grant program for infrastructure, like the new station, that is expected to award grants between $50,000 and $400,000, Reynolds said.
Colliers International, the OPM on the building project, is helping the district find a grant writer to support its application, Reynolds said.
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Williams College Celebrates Staff Members on Annual Appreciation Day
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